The title of this post is from First Corinthians 2:2. I have been preparing for our congregation’s upcoming mid-week services during which I am teaching through this book. I have been reminded of different men over the years who have condemned me for not teaching only the gospel. “Surely,” they have said, “you are not teaching biblically because you teach things in your sermons other than the gospel.”
These words by the Spirit through the apostle Paul are often misunderstood. Some, I will assume well-intentioned, people teach that Paul never taught anything else and neither should we. So everything you hear from them, every sermon you sit through, is a restatement of the gospel. They think they are being obedient to this verse by doing so. Too often this is simply an excuse for sloppy or lazy preparation. A sort of anti-intellectualism.
Sadly, these “gospel only” people are wrong. How do we know this? Simply by reading the rest of First Corinthians! Paul addresses a variety of issues other than the gospel, including incest, church discipline, legal matters, spiritual gifts, giving, etc. Clearly these various issues are not “Christ and the Cross” only.
Old Testament scholar Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. has clearly explained the Biblical teaching on this topic:
Preaching Christ, especially from the Old Testament, does not mean that every verse in the Old Testament directly reveals the Messiah. Instead, it argues from a concept of the unity and cohesiveness of the whole Bible that the same overarching story begins, continues, and ends where it had always been he intended to end in the plan of God.
If this is central, it in no way undermines a host of other topics relating to ethics, morality, and other doctrines that radiate out from this center. To appeal to Paul’s tactical decision when he was in Corinth (‘I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,’ 1 Cor. 2:1-2), is to make one special case normative for his total ministry. But his writings to that same city, Paul treated a number of other issues that admittedly were tangential to Christ and his death and resurrection. For example, he took up the problems connected with taking fellow believers to court to sue them, the issue with divisions in the church, and the challenges of remaining single. His claim to know ‘nothing about Jesus Christ and him crucified’ is a hyperbole used here to emphasize what is central, but not to exclude other areas given to him by revelation of God. (emphasis added) (Recovering the Unity of the Bible, 219)